Cart-tastrophe! Ridge merchant group snubs offer to have vendor-blocking benches removed

Food cart gets benched: Street seats block street meats in Bay Ridge
Community Newspaper Group / Will Bredderman

A Fifth Avenue merchant opposed to street vendors says he’ll pay have the benches someone bolted onto the sidewalk to displace a vilified gyro cart torn out — but his offers are being ignored by the one group that can remove the repositioned street seats.

Habib Joudeh’s Pharmacy on Fifth is more than 15 blocks from 86th Street, where the illegally placed benches forced the Middle Eastern Halal Cart to relocate from a popular selling spot back in March.

But, even though he thinks street meat sellers dirty up the sidewalk, he found himself sympathizing with the uprooted cart workers.

“No one has the right to take the law into his own hands,” Joudeh explained. “The carts are licensed. They’re legally there.”

Yet Joudeh claims Patrick Condren, the manager of the 86th Street Business Improvement District — which is responsible for placing and maintaining street furniture at the intersection — ignored Joudeh when he offered the $425 Condren said was needed to have the benches removed.

“To resolve this issue, I said ‘I’ll put up the money right now,’” said Joudeh, recalling how he offered Condren both cash and a check, but received no response.

But Condren denied ever citing a price for pulling out the benches — and declared that his group was done dealing with the issue.

“We’re not talking about benches anymore,” Condren said. “We’re moving on.”

Joudeh heard about the street seller’s plight when Middle Eastern Halal Cart workers came to the Arab American Association of New York — where he serves as vice president — asking for the group’s assistance.

The Arab American Association of New York ultimately decided not to do anything about the benches, which have become weapons in the ongoing war between brick-and-mortar businesses and rolling entrepreneurs.

The mismatched street seats were put near 86th Street under the cover of darkness on March 22, knocking the Middle Eastern Halal Cart off its usual perch.

Sammy Kassen, the Middle Eastern Halal Cart’s manager, suspected that a group of Fifth Avenue merchants he has had ongoing problems with — who are all members of the 86th Street Business Improvement District — installed the benches, but the businessmen denied any wrongdoing.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the street seats’ forced migration.

A store owner near 87th Street said one of the benches was removed from in front of his business, but said he didn’t know who uprooted it and brought it closer to 86th Street.

The city has repeatedly said that the 86th Street Business Improvement District was responsible for tearing out the benches, but Condren said his group’s rules prevent him from spending money to remove seats that it didn’t install.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman